Just when you think you’ve seen it all…
The NY Times is reporting that a controversy is brewing in Alameda County, California, over the accusation that Jews had been excluded from participating in juries in capital murder cases where the death penalty was a possible outcome.
A former Alameda prosecutor, John R. Quatman, made the contentions in a sworn declaration in the habeas corpus case of Fred H. Freeman. Mr. Freeman is a condemned inmate who is seeking to overturn his conviction in 1987 in a killing and robbery at a bar in Berkeley.
Mr. Quatman, who worked for 26 years as a deputy district attorney and prosecuted the case, said the trial judge, Stanley Golde, advised him during jury selection that “no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber.”
“Judge Golde was only telling me what I already should have known to do,” Mr. Quatman’s statement said. “It was standard practice to exclude Jewish jurors in death cases.”
Mr. Quatman said the practice extended to African-American women, who have also been widely considered sympathetic to defendants, though in Mr. Freeman’s case that has not been an issue.
This practice is illegal, because prohibitions of jury exclusions on the basis of race were extended by the U.S. Supreme Court to include discrimination on the basis of religion.
Judge Golde was Jewish and apparently did not support the death penalty. However, his sons believe that he upheld it as a right of the state because as a judge he believed upholding the law was more important. Quatman, who is making the accusations, claims,
He said I could not have a Jew on the jury and asked me if I was aware that when Adolf Eichmann was apprehended after World War II there was a major controversy in Israel over whether he should be executed.” “Judge Golde said no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber. I thanked Judge Golde for his advice and thereafter excused any prospective juror who was Jewish.”
People who were around at the time are pooh-pooing Quatman’s claims, although one of the people quioted in the article simply says that it wasn’t exclusion on the basis of race or religion, but rather “common sense” not to have people with the wrong political leanings on the jury.
This is having wide repercussions because if the allegations are true, all of the death row cases in Alameda County will have to be reconsidered since the murderers would then be deemed not to have enjoyed the benefit of a fair trial.
At least in this article, there appears to be substance to the allegations:
At Mr. Schmeck’s trial in 1989, prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove the two prospective Jewish jurors, court papers show. His lawyers protested, but the judge, who was not Mr. Golde, sided with the prosecution, which said there were reasons other than religion for excluding the two.
As part of the appeal, Mr. Schmeck’s lawyers and the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, a group that represents Mr. Freeman, reviewed jury selection in 25 capital trials in Alameda from 1984 to 1994. The review found that 12 people who identified themselves as Jews were called to the jury box and that the prosecution rejected all 12.
The review found, 17 people who had surnames perceived as Jewish were called, with the prosecution excluding 15 . Over all, the review found non-Jews excluded at a rate of 49.97 percent, and Jews and people with Jewish surnames were excluded at a rate of 93.10 percent.
In papers in Mr. Schmeck’s case, his lawyers state that another ex-Alameda prosecutor, Alex Selvin, confirmed that “it was the standard practice for attorneys on the capital team to exclude Jews from capital juries.” Mr. Selvin did not make a sworn declaration.